Government concerned over content in TV news channels

NEW DELHI: Information and broadcasting minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi today wondered why news channels tended to sensationalise entertainment news, and said he would meet editors of the news channels next month in this connection.

The minister expressed his concern on two occasions, first while addressing a seminar on gender parity in the media on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, and then in his reply in the Lok Sabha to the Cable TV Networks (Regulation) Amendment Bill 2007 making it mandatory for all cable operators to show Lok Sabha TV and two terrestrial channels of Doordarshan.

He said 60 per cent of the time on news channels was taken by entertainment news, and very
little time was given to serious news. There was also a tendency to sensationalise, and gave the example of the '28 seconds of Shilpa Shetty kissing' which was shown by channels throughout the day. Noting that the 'poor woman' (Shilpa Shetty) was suffering, the minister said '28
seconds of Shilpa Shetty kissing was shown 28 times, 48 times, 88 times, even 100 times. Is it for commercial purposes, TRP purposes? In a country of 1 billion people, I don't know how this becomes breaking news."

Dasmunsi was referring to the kissing incident between Hollywood actor Richard Gere and filmstar Shilpa Shetty at a function here to raise AIDS awareness among truckers last month, which had led to a case in Rajasthan and demands for Gere's arrest for "violating Indian culture".

He also said while Indian media barons and employers were enjoying 'freedom of press', they did not allow 'freedom of journalists'. "In India we have freedom of press - yes; but freedom of journalists - not yet. Sometimes journalists work in most pitiable conditions," commented the minister. He alleged, "75 per cent journalists in India are voucher paid (as against regular salaried employees). Does this reinforce the freedom of press?"

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